n February 7, President Bush released his proposed budget for fiscal year 2006. Overall funding levels for programs that are primarily designed to assist state and local law enforcement agencies were slashed by $1.467 billion compared to fiscal year 2005. This includes funding for assistance programs at both the Department of Justice and the Department of Homeland Security.
Department of Justice
Funding for the Edward Byrne Memorial Justice Assistance Grant (JAG) program, which was established last year by combining the Byrne Grant program and the Local Law Enforcement Block Grant program, was completely eliminated. This program received $634 million last year.
In addition, the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program was significantly cut in the proposed budget. The budget proposes $118 million for the program, down from $606 million last year, an 80 percent decrease. But $96 million of this amount is actually funding that will be carried over from the fiscal year 2005 budget. That means that the president has proposed only $22 million in new funding for the COPS Office.
In fiscal year 2005 these two primary law enforcement assistance programs received $1.24 billion. The administration's budget would fund these crucial programs at just $118 million, a cut of $1.12 billion, or 90 percent.
The proposed fiscal year 2006 budget continues a steady decline in funding levels for these programs in recent years. The funding levels for these programs have declined more than $2.3 billion since fiscal year 2002.
In addition, the proposed budget would also eliminate funding for both the Juvenile Accountability Block Grant program, which received $55 million in fiscal year 2005, and the State Criminal Alien Assistance Program (SCAAP), which assists state and local governments with the costs of jailing illegal immigrants who have committed crimes not related to their immigration status. This program received $305 million in fiscal 2005.
Proposed funding for grants under the Violence Against Women programs remains fairly constant at $363 million, down slightly from $387 million in fiscal year 2005. In addition, the administration is seeking $177 million, up from $110 million, to help criminal justice professionals make better use of DNA evidence. Of this amount, $151 million is designated to help clear the backlog of unanalyzed DNA samples. Finally, the budget proposes $58 million to upgrade criminal records, up from $25 million in fiscal year 2005.
Department of Homeland Security
The Department of Homeland Security would receive a 7 percent increase over last year's funding. But the proposed budget includes significant cuts to two of the primary assistance programs from which law enforcement agencies are eligible to obtain funds: the State Homeland Security Grant (SHSG) program and the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI). Funding for the Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention program remains steady at $400 million.
SHSG funds are distributed to the states on a formula basis, 80 percent of which must be passed on to local governments. These funds are not designated solely for law enforcement use but can be used to fund a wide range of other public safety agencies like fire departments and EMS who have responsibilities related to preparing or responding to terrorist attacks. The proposed funding level is $820 million, down $280 million, or 25 percent, from last year.
The administration is also proposing to change the formula for distributing these grants, a move Congress has rejected in the past. Under the budget, every state would receive 0.25 percent of the total spending, down from the current 0.75 percent. A revised formula would then allocate funds based on the threat of terrorism, which would result in a loss of funds for small states and rural areas.
There is also a decrease in funding for the Urban Area Security Initiative, from $885 million to $820 million, a 7.3 percent decrease. This program allocates funds to urban areas selected by the Department of Homeland Security based on a formula that takes into account factors such as critical infrastructure, population density, and credible threat information.
But the vast majority of law enforcement agencies are not eligible to receive funds under the urban area grant program and will be forced to compete for funding assistance from a much smaller pool of money. Once the urban grants are excluded, the proposed funding levels for state and local public safety agencies is reduced by almost 19 percent from fiscal year 2005 levels, and almost 45 percent from fiscal year 2004.
Combined Funding Proposals
When combined, the proposed fiscal year 2006 funding level for Justice Department and Homeland Security Department assistance programs is $2.158 billion. This is a reduction of $1.467 billion, or 40 percent, from the combined fiscal year 2005 level of $3.625 billion. It represents a decrease in $2.55 billion, or 54 percent, from fiscal year 2004.
The president's submission of his budget proposal represents the first step in the federal budget process. In coming weeks, the House and Senate budget committees will begin work on drafting the Congressional budget resolution. This nonbinding document serves as a statement of Congress's priorities in the budget process. At the same time, the various subcommittees of the House and Senate appropriations committees will begin their efforts to craft the 13 appropriation bills that actually fund the federal government. Throughout this process, the IACP will be working closely with members of Congress to ensure that the needs of the state and local law enforcement community are adequately addressed in fiscal year 2006. ■